The Secret of the Forest
Chapter 6: Tryouts
After Care of Magical Creatures was over, Albus, Scorpius and Rose walked into the hut with Hagrid. Hagrid tried making them rock cakes, but Rose insisted in what she claimed was kindness, to make snack herself this time. Hagrid eventually gave in and sat across from Albus and Scorpius. He sighed a gruff one, and said in a growling voice, “Good girl, Rose is.”
“Yeah, good girl,” Scorpius said, grinning. Rose had her back turned, but her neck went red and Albus could tell she was embarrassed. Scorpius kept grinning, “Very good girl. Fifty points to Gryffindor, Rosie.”
Albus and Hagrid laughed, and Rose turned to face Scorpius in apparent anger, only this time, it couldn’t be taken as such because she was half-laughing, “You are honestly so mean, Scorps.”
“So, anyone tryin’ out fer Quidditch this year?” Hagrid asked through his tea.
Scorpius started telling Hagrid about his position and how proud he was but Albus’ mind went astray. He knew what he wanted. He wanted to play Quidditch too. He meant to try out from the beginning, but he knew first years would never make the house team and in second year, he had an exchange student to befriend, a social circle to keep together and Mark to fight. Quidditch practice would have made that year more of a fiasco than it already was.
Now he was third year and he had more freedoms, he considered playing. Sure, he played a little bit with his brother and cousins when they were younger and he always played Chaser. He was actually good in that position. But what he wanted was seeker.
But he’s your mate, reminded a nasty voice in his ear.
Albus snapped back to reality and came to his decision, just when Scorpius was explaining the finer details of Quidditch to Rose. Albus looked at Scorpius quite seriously and said, “I’ve been thinking about trying out for the Slytherin Quidditch team.”
“What position?” Scorpius asked uneasily.
Hagrid, eyes wide, looked from both Albus to Scorpius as if half expecting a fight. Rose’s hands froze, and Albus could tell she was listening. If Albus was seeking seeker… In truth, Albus preferred seeker, but it was a strong mark of friendship that stopped him going for it, “I’m trying for Chaser, so I can directly fight my brother.”
Scorpius shrugged. He stared down at the table long and hard for a bit, and then said, “Malcolm is going for the seeking job. So, I’m defending my position against one contender. I’m an expert flier. To tell the truth, I can beat Malcolm any day. But, if Malcolm does do better than me, I want you to try for seeker. Do not let him make seeker, please.”
If Albus was previously wondering where Phoenix went before, his questions were answered when he and Scorpius and Rose walked back to the school. A large group of students were converged in the entrance hall in the middle of which stood Samuel Redgrow of Gryffindor. He held a newspaper clipping in his hand and people seemed very interested.
Revenge From Beyond the Grave: Galadral Demands Release
Galadral Phoenix, Headmaster of Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry yesterday left the confines of the castle to travel to Gringotts. There, he made surprising demands raising more than a few eyebrows in the Ministry and out.
Phoenix was accompanied by Otto Blackberry and Harry Potter, the trio who last year were under fire in what is now dubbed as the Skeeter Scandal. The three seem to be looking for reasons to hit back. Reasons that backfired.
Phoenix arrived at Gringotts in an attempt to strike a deal with the Goblins there to have a peak into Incommodo’s vault. He did not disclose reasons for doing so, raising suspicions that he is simply hitting back at Mors Incommodo of the Education Ministry.
Incommodo himself was furious at the attempt and demands made by Phoenix, making a very angry statement yesterday with fists raised high. “This is an outrage! Of course the Headmaster wants to hit back because he was embarrassed mere months ago! Phoenix, Potter and Blackberry are outdated and they have nothing to do with banks. We had reason, sufficient reason to see that the three were acting illegally! Now we see another illegal act attempt to be taken right under our noses! Not only that, but Harry Potter has a history of having broken into a vault before! I am sending a clear demand to the Law Enforcement Head to either send workers to guard the bank and watch who comes in and out or I’ll do so myself!”
Incommodo’s threat will likely be ignored by Head of the Law Enforcement and Head Hit Wizard Ernie Macmillan and so Incommodo yesterday gave the order to form his own squad, drawing further ire from the Goblins, threatening another banking crisis if this war of words persisted.
Incommodo and Phoenix have traditionally been at odds as the Headmaster and Education Ministry seldom get along. However, this is exacerbated by the fact that Otto Blackberry was always a political rival to Incommodo. Otto too demands the right to peek into Incommodo’s vault to show it works both ways. This demand has drawn mixed reactions in the Ministry of Magic yet most remain in the middle, deciding to wait and see what happens and why Phoenix wants to peek before making judgment.
“Obvious, isn’t it?” Gerald of Malcolm’s gang shrugged. “Phoenix wants to hit back.”
“What for though,” Scorpius asked, turning to Rose. “Does that sound like him?”
“Must be important, because dad doesn’t usually demand such”-
“Al, as much as I respect your father, he did hide things from us last year,” Scorpius shrugged. “I’d really like to know who is in the right this time. Though,” he added as he took a look at Incommodo’s words. “That Incommodo character is starting to scare me. Grandfather despises him.”
Tryouts, of course were next and Rose promised to watch them tryout. But Albus was greeted with another surprise as the three walked down. None other than Alexis Ackerly called from behind and ran over, face down and red as Albus brightened up at the sight of her. Rose nodded and dragged Scorpius off as Alexis smiled, “Hi, Al.”
“Erm…” Albus did not know what to say. He was very unsure. Alexis was a nice girl but their last meeting saw Alexis pin him against the wall as if about to kiss him only for them to hug instead. But she insisted she was not really intending to do so. He responded with a simple, “Hi, Alexis.”
She looked the same as the year before. Dark brown hair parted in the middle to make pigtails on either side and full facial complexion always smiling. “Just tried out for Quidditch,” she said breathlessly. “Chaser now! Trying out yourself?”
“Erm… yeah, Chaser as well, actually,” Albus shrugged. “We were just on our way.”
Alexis consented to watch as well and took a seat in the stands next to Rose, watching Albus and Scorpius face the team.
“We’ll be making a reshuffle of the Quidditch team this year,” Jennifer Salsty announced commandingly. “Now that I am captain, there will be a change, and this year, we will win. Only the best will be chosen. First, we will do seeker tryouts. Malfoy, you first.”
Scorpius grabbed his broom. Last year, he had a Firebolt 800. Now, he sported a Firebolt 900. It was very shiny, and the wood was finely shaved and smoothed. It was bent at the back of it. Albus supposed he got a new one over the summer. His parents could afford anything.
The snitch was released, and Scorpius took off. Fifty feet high, he overlooked the pitch, eyes keen and shrewd. He didn’t look nervous at all. He looked assured and determined. Jennifer timed him with a stopwatch, and within five minutes, he caught the snitch.
Malcolm was next, and while he was looking, a new challenger joined them. Second-year Lorcan Scamander appeared, blonde hair shining in the sun. Scorpius gaped. “Seeker?”
Lorcan nodded. “Best man win, Scorps?”
Scorpius nodded, mouth shut. It seemed that if he had to open it, it would end up offending someone. Jennifer blew her whistle. “Five minutes and a half. Scamander, you’re up.”
But Lorcan caught the snitch only a milliseconds before Mold. Malcolm glared at the kid, and then turned on Jennifer. “Milliseconds mean nothing. It’s a tie and a do-over.”
“No do-over,” Jennifer said firmly. “It’s a playoff. You and Scamander face off, and the winner faces Malfoy. Understood?”
Malcolm threw a dirty look, and mounted his broom once more. Lorcan seemed confrontational. Albus was sure he never saw his little friend like that before. And he knew what was going to happen from before the snitch was even released. Lorcan was miles ahead of Malcolm when he caught it. The real challenge was between Lorcan and Scorpius.
Malcolm was ordered off unless he wished for another position. He stayed behind for Chaser tryouts, pitting him against Albus. The race for the snitch was intense. The snitch was stationary up high, and Lorcan and Scorpius came at it from two directions. A crashed looked certain until Scorpius barrel-rolled out of the way, kicking Lorcan’s broom off course while doing so, and dove after the snitch, which sped down. Lorcan dove after them.
Scorpius had a faster broom though, and it was over the minute Scorpius claimed an advantage. He caught it just as Lorcan, recognizing certain defeat, dismounted.
“The seeker remains Scorpius Malfoy,” Jennifer announced as Albus breathed an enormous sigh of relief. The Beater tryouts were uneventful. They were supposed to hit a moving person as target practice. The Beaters were changed completely to be fourth years Philip Horton and Spock McMack.
Albus made Chaser quite easily. At least it wasn’t as big a challenge as Scorpius had to face. However, Jennifer wasn’t happy with the Chaser results, and appeared to be battling with herself on whether to go back on her word of keeping the best or not. Albus was on, but so was Malcolm, and they weren’t exactly getting along well. Lorcan was taken by the team as well. Jennifer stepped back, and scrutinized them all, as if trying to see if this pick fit a team’s image.
“We work as a team,” she said seriously. “If there’s conflict between two members, both are kicked off, clear?” She stared directly at Albus and Malcolm. Albus nodded reluctantly, and Malcolm shrugged, sour look apparent. Lorcan walked off with his twin, who arrived, though in Gryffindor, to wish him luck.
Alexis on the other hand ran up and stopped right in front, stretching her hand out formally, “Well done, Al! I guess… I’ll see you on the field.”
Alexis followed them back to the castle, all of them walking in silence with Scorpius was smiling in a furtive way. Rose nudged him. Albus was silent though. He knew what they were thinking… but he had doubts that their suspicions were indeed case. Alexis was a good friend and remained so the previous year when she was all he had. She knew of the tensions between his social circle and neither Scorpius nor Rose understood that. Beyond close friendship and an advisory role, Albus was not completely sure how he felt, particularly after their last meeting the previous year. With that thought in mind, he followed them back up, right beside a silent Alexis.
Just as they were walking, as fate would have it, Rose engaged in an argument with Scorpius. “I can’t understand what you like about Quidditch,” Rose sighed. “Such a boring sport, really, and”-
Scorpius gasped in apparent surprise. His hands were on his mouth, “You don’t like Quidditch? How could you Rose. You hate Quidditch, and you claim to be a Weasley!”
“You and my dad would get along just fine apparently,” Rose said back.
“Well, Quidditch is a fun sport,” Scorpius said firmly, and then he stung, “Girls just don’t understand sports.”
It was probably because Alexis looked affronted but instinctually, Albus then entered the conversation, “You’ll be surprised how many girls love the sport. My mum was seeker for the Holyhead Harpies.”
“Well, figures that, the Harpies suck,” Scorpius said dirtily before he could stop himself. Then, he shifted guiltily and changed subject, “Anyways, when Scamander challenged me, I was kinda put off,” Scorpius admitted. “I don’t know his skill, but it’s good to see it all worked out. Then your tryout as Chaser… It was in the bag”-
“Scorps, you tell me not to recap class, shut your mouth,” Rose said.
“I told you not to call me Scorps,” Scorpius retorted back angrily.
Albus rolled his eyes. He really did want to talk Quidditch, Why did Rose have to butt in now? “Ignore them,” Alexis said silently in his ear. “It’ll blow off.”
“Albus calls you Scorps all the time,” Rose said angrily.
Albus groaned. Now he was going to be asked to get involved, and he had to argue too. He wondered vaguely if his dad ever went through something like this. But then… “Albus is my friend,” Scorpius declared loyally.
“And I’m not?”
“You certainly don’t act like one,” Scorpius said bitterly. “But never worry. You’re a Gryffindor. I can’t blame your brainwashed mind, can I?”
Alexis had to stop herself laughing as she whispered rather humorously, “Ok, that part is true.” Still, Albus knew he went too far by Rose’s reaction. Rose exclaimed in anger, and stomped off ahead, leaving the three behind. When they were out of earshot, Albus said again, “The Holyhead Harpies won seven games out of ten when my mum played seeker for them.”
“I don’t like the Harpies Al,” Scorpius sighed, rolling his eyes. “Nothing personal. My team is the Montrose Magpies. You know that.”
“Oh, really, I’m more of a Ballycastle Bats fan,” Alexis shrugged and from then on, the three of them discussed their favorite Quidditch teams, partly cheering Scorpius up.
At least until Lorcan caught up with them from far behind, looking breathless. “Hey, Al. Scorps. Good game, huh? I want to be honest… I was never going to take the seeker position. I’m better trained with Quaffles anyways and I prefer Chasers in the leagues. More strategic.”
“Why’d you tryout then?” Scorpius asked.
“To get Mold off the pitch and test my eyes,” Lorcan said simply. “Just wanted to let you know.”
Scorpius seemed in a better mood after the explanation, and Albus was rather pleased. Right after tryouts, Albus, Alexis, Scorpius, and Lorcan walked in. Rose was leaning against the wall, looking miserable. Albus knew it was Scorpius’ fault anyways, but before he could recommend an apology, the Headmaster Professor Phoenix walked past them on his way to lunch. As Phoenix passed, a wave of tension took over. Albus didn’t fully understand it but Alexis tensed up and Lorcan stared at Phoenix as if the man committed a crime.
“Alright there, Scamander?” Phoenix asked in his usual strong and hard voice. “Read your mother’s article in the Quibbler. Fascinating stuff about vampires really, never would’ve thought it.”
“You don’t like the Quibbler, you’ve said so before,” Lorcan told him lowly, almost threateningly.
Professor Phoenix was silent for minutes, standing in place without movement. Lorcan continued his staring. Albus was beginning to feel sure that the Quibbler couldn’t be the reason for Lorcan’s surprised anger, but all of a sudden, Lorcan’s earlier gloominess made sense. Anger at the Headmaster. “Lunch is ready,” Phoenix said finally after moments of silence.
“You expelled Riley Blackberry,” Lorcan breathed angrily. “I’ve sent you letter after letter appealing, my brother sent you a letter and you ignored all of them.”
“Yeah, you told mum that you couldn’t be caught giving in to the Quibbler!” Lorcan shot angrily.
“I cannot take the word of two students, Scamander, I’m sorry,” Phoenix said honestly. “Truly, I am. But look at it from my point of view. In the position I am in now, I would be fired if I caved to two students. Particularly when these two students are”-
“Sons of the Quibbler editor,” Lorcan fumed. “Era wrote to you. Does she mean nothing?”
“Professor Era is my most trusted teacher, and”-
“Not the way you treated her?” Lorcan breathed angrily. “I noticed what you did at the beginning feast. Looks like she’s not even Deputy Headmistress anymore. But you failed to admit it for fear of being reprimanded. You’re a dishonest wretch and need to be suspended!”
“Twenty points from Slytherin!” Phoenix responded immediately. “Judgment on my job is not for you to deal. Never talk to a teacher like this again, especially the Headmaster.”
Phoenix strutted off, looking higher than usual and Lorcan glared at him angrily, and then actually spat on the floor before following him, leaving Albus and Scorpius standing there in surprise. “That was… interesting,” Scorpius muttered as they walked their way to the dormitory.